Bonnie Johnson, alias The Kitten: Disability and Sexuality Intersected (An Interview)

Posted on by Marijana Čanak

Bonnie Johnson from Miami, better known as Kitten, runs the most frequently visited website providing a safe space for persons with disabilities to express their sexuality, everyone in line with her/his own sexual profile and preferences, in a sex-positive context. The Gimps Gone Wild (GGW) website was established sixteen years ago. It is an ever growing virtual community renowned worldwide. Bony used to be a model herself, so the borderline between exploitation and an authentic expression of each of the models on her website is unobscured and clear-cut. It is the models themselves who decide on the ways to express their sensuality: in an easy-going, sexy or explicit way, by using photos, videos or other forms. The only condition is that they are having fun and enjoy being themselves while doing it. Anyone can be a model, regardless of her/his age, shape, type of disability, sex, gender or sexual orientation. Bony is also running an online e-shop selling items with slogans and humorous captions concerning disability. It is her witty retort to the staring world asking stupid questions.

– Society is so afraid to mix sex and the handicapped, that no one will touch the concept, well I did, and have been for over a decade now and won’t ever stop!

Exclusively for the Disability Portal, Bony Johnson talks about herself, sexual freedoms and rights of persons with disabilities, outdated taboos, fetishes, online and real-life devoteeism.

How would you describe yourself in one sentence?

Oh Geez, let’s see. I’m a tiny little women with a big sense of life who  loves to party, live it up and be a pioneer!

Which fictional character do you identify with?

Hmmm, never thought of that, unfortunately there aren’t any fictional characters out there that represent a small fiesty disabled independent woman, lol.  I use to watch a show called Saving Grace and the main character Grace was a cop/detective, but she was her own person, she lived her life freely, didn’t care what people said and she was built, she was like 50, but lean and strong and enjoyed life like a 20 year old. I loved it!

What’s the wackiest belief you held as a child?

My baby sitters had me believing in fairies for just one night, lol. I never really  believed in magical stuff growing up like the Easter bunny, Santa clause etc, I always was kind of an atheist and as I got older it was more confirmed.

What’s something your parents used to do or say to you as a child that you promised yourself you’d never repeat — but now you catch yourself doing it?

Finish that one first before you open the next one! lol

When are you the most at ease with yourself?

When I’m at home, in my sanctuary, or out with husband and friends with a cocktail!

Tell us the story behind your nickname. How did you become Kitten?

Once I discovered disabled modeling I wanted to pick a name that represents me. I LOVE kittens, I’m really small so it just seemed to fit.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being your height?

Advantages:  being CUTE, lol, at least people say I am, also being able to reach things in tight corners and if someone has to carry me, its not a lot of weight to carry.  Disadvantages: not being taken seriously and not being able to reach shit!

How did you come up with an idea to create a site for disabled models? Why did you choose to name it Gimps Gone Wild?

All my life I wanted to be sexy. I wanted to be a model and or dancer. But I knew better and knew I wouldn’t be one for real. I never was considered as sexy. My friends and I would discuss how it annoyed us that society saw the disabled as childlike, cute, non-sexual non-datable etc. One day I came across a site that did have sexy modeling for the disabled and joined. After being ripped off, I decided with a friend to create a site similar. We had a falling out and I revamped that site and came up with Gimps Gone Wild (GGW), once I took over it soared!   I wanted a place where a disabled person can express themselves in a sexy way, and not be judged.  I picked the name Gimps Gone Wild because it’s a play on words.  The word Gimp is seen as a negative, but I wanted to take it back, own it, make it something fun. The site Girls Gone wild was pretty popular then and it just kinda went along with that.  I wanted to show that even tho my site was about being sexy, it was about having fun, not being too serious and just enjoying everything.

What major challenges did you face while starting your job?

The technical stuff was hard, the ex friend had done all that, but once I learned it all, i felt free, because I had total control and didn’t have to rely on anyone.  My real challenge was the backlash I received form both the disabled and non-disabled. The non-disabled claiming that I was exploiting the disabled, which goes back to the reason why I made GGW.  People tend to think we can’t think for ourselves, and that GGW made models do what we told them to do. On the contrary, GGW allows a disabled individual absolute freedom to do or express themselves in the manner they see fit. I just am the avenue in which they do it. They send in the content and i just put it up on the site. As for the disabled and their backlash, they feel that I am catering to fetishists, and they  have a hard time with devotees (people who are attracted to disabled people)  I don’t understand that thinking, we’ve been excluded and discriminated against all our lives because we are disabled and here comes along people who think we are sexy because of the disability and the disabled have a problem with that, never happy.  Yes if someone is only interested in a person because of JUST their physical attribute and nothing else, then yes there is a problem, but most devotees I have come across are just regular people who happen to find the disability sexy and want to know the person as a whole.  I have noticed that the disabled people who have issues with GGW, have issues with themselves, being disabled and just can’t fathom that we can be attractive and can be seen as sexual, sexy ADULTS. It’s why they keep changing the political correctness of terms, one day they have an issue with the word handicapped, the next day its the word disabled. To me it’s all about HOW a term is used, changing it every 10 years isn’t going to change the fact we are disabled.  They need to accept WHO they are and just live life.  Life is too short to get caught up in words and worry about petty things.

Name some core values of your modeling business.

The core value of GGW is true expression, to show the world that we are adults, we are sexual, we are a sanctuary to express ourselves the way we see fit, without being judged.

What’s the most frustrating issue in creating and selling sexual content? How do you deal with highly judgemental people?

Pretty much what I wrote before, people don’t understand that it’s OK to be sexy, we are adults and should be seen as such.  Too many people see sexy disabled people as taboo and we should be seen as just people.  Another issue is trying to find models who are willing to model, and since sexual content is so rampant all over the net, it’s hard to find those to actually pay for it. Things have changed in the last decade.  I just ignore the highly judgemental.  They are going to see things the way they want and me telling them until I am blue in the face changes nothing.  What my site is about and what we stand for is on the about us page. If people read that and still don’t get it, there is nothing I can do, just like they can’t change my mind and make me think what I’m doing is wrong. Most people don’t even really LOOK at what the site is about, they take one glance and make opinions, like what most of society does anyway.

How many models have you worked with so far?

I have been running GGW for 16 years, we’ve had models come and go, I probably have worked with well over a 100 models.

Can modeling boost self-confidence, or you need to be highly self-confident to dare to expose yourself in a sexual way?

Actually modeling is both.  I have had models come back and tell me that their self esteem has increased due to being on the site.  For me, I gained the confidence and then decided to model.  Once I got online, I noticed an increase of male attention and was asked for nudes constantly, so I decided, hey they wanna see the goods they can pay for the goods, lol.  It definitely helped me feel attractive to the opposite sex.

I’ve read on your website that some disabilities are more popular than others. What does it actually mean?

Over the years I have noticed that there are devotees of people of certain disabilities. Amputees, paraplegics, quadriplegics seem to be the most popular.  I have talked to many devotees and that’s the disability they seem to gravitate to.

What is the most bizarre request you’ve gotten from a fan?

I have been asked to do a photo shoot in a cast or a diaper, which I didn’t do, not my bag, lol.

What are your experiences with devotees?

In the beginning it wasn’t very good.  Once I got online, I would get the most rude inconsiderate guys just asking blunt questions or asking for free pics. I first thought they were freaks and what was wrong with them.  After some time, and after weeding through the losers, I came across some extremely nice men. I even went on a weekend conference that was for the devotes and disabled ladies. They were the sweetest bunch of men I ever met. Very respectful, helpful etc. No one expected sex or anything weird went on, I had the best time. Too bad more men weren’t like them. I was one of the nicest weekends I’ve had. Devotees are like any group of people, you get your wackadoo’s and then you get your very nice ones. Unfortunately the wacky ones have no respect and are going to be the ones that have no qualms and just contact people and be as rude as they like, and unfortunately this becomes the first impression many get about devotees, and never get to experience the cool ones and then have a forever bad image of devotees. The nice ones are usually shy and unfortunately a lot of people don’t get the chance to experience them.  They get judged a lot just because they are a devotee and already are perceived as someone bad.   I see it all the time, that a disabled women won’t even talk to a devotee and then get mad that they are judged by other men because they are disabled, kind of hypocritical if you ask me.  I believe in getting to know someone first and then block if they become a douche, lol.

What can any woman with disability do to improve her body image?

I suggest first accept that they are disabled and that there is nothing they can do about that.  Dress the way they feel the most attractive, wear their hair and make up the way they love.  Try to eat healthy, exercise, keep as fit as possible.  When I started realizing I am who I am and that’s it, I said fuck it!  I started wearing funky colors in my hair and becoming more me That’s when I made the site and it just grew from there.

How would you explain sexual rights to someone from the other planet?

The right to express themselves sexually the way they see fit.  The right to be sexual, the right to have sex, the right to have intimacy with another person. 

What needs to be done in the process of claiming sexual rights for people with disability?

More and more sites like mine, more people just accepting that the disabled individual is an adult just like everyone else. Having conferences and workshops on the disabled and sexuality. Allowing prostitution to be legal. Many disabled people have difficulty in finding a partner and safe prostitution could help many who are frustrated.  There are what’s called sex angle’s, those who aid in helping the very physically disabled person have sex and intimacy.

Who has made the biggest impact on you? Is there anyone you particularly admire in the disability rights movement?

I really don’t know many people in the disabled rights movement, I just do what I do, live my life.   There isn’t one particular person who impacted me.  I once saw Ellen Stohl in Playboy and thought  that was amazing, she was a paraplegic and did a shoot for them.   There is also a women I know who  has the same disability as myself and I know is very active in the disabled sexual rights area.  I know she does workshops and is active online for the sexual rights of the disabled.  There is also another woman, named Selene Luna. She’s a little person who did burlesque years ago. She’s friends with Margaret Cho and does stand up comedy as well.

What social changes have resulted from your work so far?

I’m not aware of any particular major changes. I have been in some press and have gotten emails from people telling me it’s great that I am doing the site and some have even told me that they see the disabled in a whole new light.  

What is your favorite bumper sticker or t-shirt slogan regarding disabilities?

I have a disability, my disability doesn’t have meI’m a GIMMMP GONNNE WILLLLD.  Walking is overrated. Would you like me to give you something to stare at?  I run The Gimp Store, a site  where I sell t-shirts, stickers and other items with handicapped humor and quotes.  I’ve had that site as long as GGW.  A lot of my favorite quotes are on there.

Which taboo remains to be broken on your to-do list?

To be more visible in the USA regarding media.  I have gotten requests and done press for countries like Canada and England, but the US is still up tight about stuff like this.  I was even asked to be on an episode of the show Taboo, they came out here, interviewed me, video taped us for 3 days and everything and then last minute they told me that we’re too risque for the show. I was like uh your show is CALLED TABOO and my site and content is too risque???  They have people drinking their own piss, webcamming, dressing up like horses for kinky sex play, but a disabled person posing nude is too risque!?  I was livid. This just goes to show that society doesn’t see us as adults, we are viewed as child like and it’s why I created my site, to show that we aren’t.

Anything I haven’t asked and it’s important to add?

You pretty much covered it all. I just want everyone to know that we, the disabled, are people first, we are not kids, we are adults and want to be seen as such, not as some novelty or a joke or some curiosity.  We all want to be attractive, loved and being seen as equals. I ask everyone:  If you were disabled how would you want to be treated and seen as??  Then treat US the same way!

Introduction translated by Ankica Dragin

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